HASKAPS - The fruit of "long life" and "good vision"
What is a Haskap?
Haskap is an exciting new crop for North America. The Blue honeysuckle belongs to the genus Lonicera and the species caerulea. Most people mistake the fruit as part of the vaccinium family (Blueberries and Cranberries), when in fact the fruit is more closely related to Tomatoes. It comes from the Dipsacales order and is related to the Snowberry and Elderberry. The fruits have long since been harvested for home and commercial use in China, Russia, and Japan. The name Haskap comes from the Ainu word “haskappu” meaning “little present at the end of the branch”and the Japanese to this date still call the berry “Haskap”. It has also been known as ‘Blue Honeysuckle’, ‘Honeyberry’, ‘Edible Honeysuckle’ and ‘Sweet Berry Honeysuckles’.
Where do they come from?
Haskaps are native to the northern forests of Asia, Europe and Canada. The first introduction of cultivated plants in Beaverlodge, AB in the 1990's were bitter and not a very palatable berry, not suitable for commercial production. In 2005, the University of Saskatchewan using traditional propagation practices with cultivars obtained from all over the world, and using predominately the sweeter less hardy varieties from Northern Japan and the harder, tarter varieties from Russia, created plants that could withstand the climates of Canada (hardy to -40C) and could be commericially grown and machine harvested.
Why are we only hearing about them now?
Early varieties were introduced to selected growers in Saskatchewan in 2008 and the list of growers has now expanded to all provinces of Canada. The plants require a minimum of 5 years to reach maturity and not many growers' plants are producing sufficient volumes to sell in stores.
What do they look like?
The skin of the haskap is dark blue, with intense, vibrant purple flesh. They are long and cylinder about 1 cm in diameter and range from 1 - 4 cm long depending on variety. The seeds are very small, and almost imperceptible.
What do they taste like?
These plants produce a fabulous unique tasting fruit that is hard to describe. The fruit has a sweet/tart flavour and is very juicy. It is often described as having tastes of wild blueberry, raspberry, black current, huckleberry, saskatoon, and blackberry with an added zing that is unique to the haskap.
When do they produce?
The early varieties are the first fruit crops to ripen, even before strawberries. Each berry starts with twin flowers, forming a single berry with multiple skin layers inside. They bloom a month before the last frost and their flowers can take -7C without damage.
What can we use them for?
Haskap berries taste great and are incredibly versatile.
- • Raw – used as any other fresh berry
- • Cooked – used in sauces and savory meals
- • Baked – used in pastries, tarts, pies, squares, etc.
- • Preserved – jams, jellies, juice, syrups, etc.
- • Dairy Products - ice cream, smoothies, yogurt, etc.
- • Fruit Leather, Candies
- • Dried
- • Salad Dressings
- • Primary or Secondary flavoring for Beers, Wines, Liquors, Cordials, etc.
Haskaps have intense colour and powerful flavour making them a marvelous ingredient in baking recipes, ice cream and yogurt. The skin of the berry melts away in both baking and frozen desserts, perfect for scrumptuous muffins and delectable ice cream and smoothies. The berries are very suitable for juice production. They not only yield over 80% juice, but the rich colour remains stable and is full of flavour. It is this color that draws wineries and distrillers to produce fruit wines, table wines and liquors. It is also used as a food additive for enhancing colour in other food products.